When Jody Bilney, Humana’s first chief consumer officer, spoke on a Louisville Business First panel with three other local, female executives, she acknowledged that there is “not a single or standard route” to the leadership positions she and her peers hold.
For Jody, her career has traversed several industries, including consumer packaged goods, telecommunications, financial services, startup technology, casual dining, and now health care. She also serves on the board of directors for Masonite, the largest door manufacturer in the world.
“(When I was selected for Masonite’s board), I knew nothing about the door business,” Jody confessed. “What I do know is consumers. I understand how people make decisions. I understand how well-run companies are well run; the importance of corporate culture and governance; and the importance of employee engagement. Those are (all) transferrable skills that are relevant across industries.”
Jody encouraged the audience to be intentional about gaining experiences that qualify them for leadership roles. “Because it doesn’t just happen,” she explained. “It happens over time and with a certain set of very relevant and interesting experiences.”
Jody also talked about the importance of Humana’s network resource groups (NRGs), which are voluntary organizations open to all employees. NRGs provide personal, experience-based forums for exchanging ideas and building community. The largest NRG at Humana is the Women’s NRG with more than 7,000 participants.
“(Through the Women’s NRG, participants) are taking it upon themselves to broaden their careers and be curious about what’s next. To be continuous learners and evolve who they are,” Jody said. “As a marketer, there is something you say, ‘You have to stand for something, but you can’t stand still.’ That goes for brands – the brands I’ve worked for over the years – but it goes for individuals as well. You have to stand for something. You have to get good at something. But that can’t be it. You have to continue to grow and evolve. As leaders of organizations, we have to help create an environment where people can advance.”
As a final note about leadership, Jody said: “If you want jobs like we have here, then it’s not all you. It’s a support system you create and the work environment you select so you know you have a shot at thriving there.”